Interview: Guitarist Nita Strauss Discusses her new Signature Model, The Ibanez Jiva
Photo by: Samuel Lathrop and used with permission

Nita Strauss, the Los Angeles-based guitarist known for her shredding skills as part of the Alice Cooper band, was recently awarded her first Signature model guitar from Ibanez. 

The Ibanez JIVA gets its name from the Hindu word, which means the vital energy of life and the creative essence that lives on after the body passes away.

Strauss’ JIVA is based on Ibanez’s popular S-series model and features a quilted maple top on a mahogany body. There’s also a 24-fret, ebony fingerboard with a uniquely designed "Beaten Path" EKG-Style inlay. The guitar also comes with Strauss' signature DiMarzio pickups, which the guitarist designed herself.

The Ibanez JIVA’s unveiling at this winter’s NAMM Convention makes Strauss the company's first female guitarist with a Signature model. Strauss has been on the Ibanez roster since 2008 and the JIVA is a well-deserved award that recognizes one of the most inspiring and hardest working guitarists in music.

Strauss is currently gearing up for a new round of touring with Alice Cooper and is deep into production on her first guitar-driven, instrumental solo album.

AXS recently spoke with Nita Strauss about her new Signature model guitar, her upcoming tour with Alice Cooper and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: Where did the idea and inspiration for your Signature model come from?

Nita Strauss: I think once you start playing guitar and learning about their components, you start figuring out what features would make it better. So, like most guitars players, I started designing my Signature guitar when I was in grade school [laughs]. I would always write down all my ideas into a notebook that I would carry around. This year is my tenth anniversary with Ibanez, and last year was when the discussion for a Signature model first started. I already had a clear picture of what I wanted from all the endless decisions I'd done in my head. So, once the final decision was made, it was a pretty straightforward process.

AXS: Why the name, "JIVA"?

NS: The word “jiva” is a Hindu word that means the part of yourself where all your creativity, ideas and life force comes from. It’s your jiva manifesting itself. Whether it’s your art, music or creativity, it’s the part of you that lives on after your body passes away. I thought, what more appropriate thing to call my guitar. On a personal note, my Dad’s band was called Jiva a long time ago. Since my dad’s the one who taught me how to play guitar, it’s also a fitting tribute as well. 

AXS: What can you tell me about the guitar?

NS: It’s a mahogany body with custom maple top and ebony fretboard that weighs exactly seven pounds. That combination of wood gives it the tone I love and sets the guitar apart from others in the S-series. The Deep Space Blonde color is also unique as well.

AXS: What about the guitar’s pickups?

NS: Choosing a pickup was a trial and error process. I wanted something with a lot of body and sustain. Something that could hit top harmonics and hold them out but also not be too noisy on stage. We have a happy medium with my DiMarzio Pandemonium pickups. They’re really bright with harmonic resonance but are also really quiet.

AXS: What’s one of the little things you love most about the JIVA?

NS: I love the “Beaten Path” inlay on the fretboard, which looks like an EKG line. The thing I love about it is how the “spikes” in the EKG correspond with the position markers on the fretboard. Naturally, as you go up toward the higher frets of the guitar where the soloing happens, the EKG “heartbeat” gets faster.

AXS: What’s it like being Ibanez’s first female Signature Artist?

NS: I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I remember when I walked up to the wall at NAMM and saw my picture next to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and all my other heroes for the first time, I burst into tears. It was the most surreal experience I’ve ever had in my life.

Click here to watch the video for Nita Strauss' instrumental song, "Pandemonium".

AXS: Can you give me an update on your tour plans with Alice Cooper?

NS: We’re leaving in a few weeks for the first leg of Alice’s 2018 tour. It’s just going to be us, so we’ll get to do a nice set and play to the Alice fans, which is always a lot of fun. 

AXS: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

NS: I’m doing a lot of recording and pre-production for my instrumental record over the next few weeks and plan to release it sometime this year. There will be a single release ahead of the album with a very special guest that I’m beyond excited about. This solo record is such a big deal for me because it’s the next step in my evolution as a guitar player. I did a lot of work and brainstorming while I was out on the road. Now, it's time to record and put it out for people to listen to.

My band, We Start Wars, is also getting ready to go into the studio in April and do some recording. The songs have been ready to go for quite a while. I’m really excited about it.

AXS: What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?

NS: The thing that’s been most exciting for me in recent years is seeing this wave of amazing female guitarists coming out and seeing young girls picking up a guitar for the first time. I see so many little girls posting videos on social media and parents tagging me in their posts telling me how their daughter saw me playing and now she wants to play too. There are so many great female role-models out there, and it’s exciting for me to play a part in whatever small way I can to try to inspire the next generation of players.